News That Caught My Attention, September 11-18

Here are a few articles that I read, found interesting, noted and filed this week – which could be worth your own interest. When Having Black, Rotting Teeth Was Cool: 10 Bizarre Status Symbols from the Past These are great little tidbits of old indulgences. Rotting teeth – and sixteenth century follies. You’re life won’t change by reading about them – but they are interesting (and probably sermon illustration-worthy) in the future. White House Women Want to Be in the Room Where It Happens While the article traces how women are becoming more essential in how the White House functions, it also shows the inevitable world-view clash between the value motherhood and pursuing a career. Scripture is not silent on all of this and trying to be politically powerful and domestically influential will clash every time. Where Are the Happiest Europeans? Not in big cities, survey says. Major European cities, often cited for the joy of their progressive ways, are the cities with the least satisfied people. Go to the smaller provincial cities to find people satisfied with life. Perhaps a noted gospel opportunity. The gospel can flourish where society is significantly broken. The Uses of Patriotism David Brooks directs his appeal to high school football players, appealing to them to see the value of honoring their country during the the playing of the national anthem, even if and when they are struggling with its moral compass. While I can’t see a lot of high school football players interacting with Brooks’ NYT’s opinion piece, it’s worth the read in this present debate. What San Francisco Says About America The utopia... read more

News That Caught My Attention This Week (September 4-9, 2016)

Each morning I read through a few articles from a few newspapers and online sources. Here are a few articles of note that caught my attention this week: “We’re the Only Plane in the Sky” – Politico publishes a long, but fascinating blow-by-blow account of what 9/11 was like from the perspective of those who surrounded and served President George W. Bush. The story of those remarkable hours—and the thoughts and emotions of those aboard—isolated eight miles above America, escorted by three F-16 fighters, flying just below the speed of sound, has never been comprehensively told. This oral history, based on more than 40 hours of original interviews with more than two dozen of the passengers, crew, and press aboard—including many who have never spoken publicly about what they witnessed that day—traces the story of how an untested president, a sidearm-carrying general, top aides, the Secret Service and the Cipro-wielding White House physician, as well as five reporters, four radio operators, three pilots, two congressmen and a stenographer responded to 9/11. Pastor David Prince gives helpful comment on Andy Stanley’s comments this week about Christianity’s unnecessary dependence upon the Bible. I was at the recent ERLC Onward Conference listening when Russell Moore was having a conversation about ministry and preaching with Andy Stanley. I was startled when Stanley said he preaches some sermons without ever quoting the Bible. He views these sermons as extended introductions. Stanley also said we do not believe Christianity because of the Bible, but because of the resurrection and eyewitness testimonies. A couple of years ago, Stanley said that preachers should stop saying, “The Bible says,” a... read more

Cap-Quotes: Losing Our Virtue, Chapter 1 – “A Tale of Two Spiritualities”

On my shelf and unread for many years is David Wells’ third book in his four-book series on theology and culture, Losing Our Virtue. It is now on the side arm of my reading chair and I am beginning my way through it. Even though it was written in 1998, his analysis of the contemporary Christian culture remains spot-on and vitally important for our consideration. The ills he outlines in the book not only remain nearly twenty years after he composed them, but are more more advanced in their expression and negative impact on the church. Even the contemporary reactions of a new generation to the former generation’s narcissism, remain narcissistic (perhaps I will address how I see that in a future post). Here are a few quotes from his first chapter, “A Tale of Two Spiritualities.” Wells begins to outline a few similarities between the culture of Martin Luther some 500 years ago and our contemporary era (though 20 years removed from today). Technology also reduces all of life to the productive order, to measurable benefits, to the calculus of cost an profit, and what is most efficient rapidly becomes what is ethically permissible or right. In a technologically dominated world, what is real is what is found along the flat plane of human management, where effects can be strictly controlled by our own causes. The use of technology greatly enlarges the sense of autonomy, of being at the center of one’s own world and of pulling the strings of its circumstances, through it is probably also the case that different generations look on technology in slightly different... read more

Calvin on the Book of Psalms

John Calvin, the sixteenth century pastor-theologian in Geneva, known most often for his theological treatise, The Institutes for the Christian Religion, should equally be remembered for his commentaries on almost every book of the Bible. As I finish an overview of the book of Psalms at my church, consider how Calvin introduced his commentary on this penetrating part of Scripture: The wearied and resplendid riches which are contained it this treasury it is no easy matter to express in words; so much so, that I well know that whatever I shall be able to say will be far from approaching the excellence of the subject. But as it is better to give to my readers some taste, however small, of the wonderful advantages they will derive from the study of this book, than to be entirely silent on the point, I may be permitted briefly to advert to a matter, the greatness of which does not admit of being fully unfolded.   I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.   The other parts of Scripture contain the commandments which God enjoined his servants to announce to us. But here the prophets themselves, seeing they are exhibited to... read more

Cap-Quotes: Desiring God Chapter 2

Each Wednesday evening through the summer months, a group of adults are reading through and discussing the implications of John Piper’s book, Desiring God. If you have opportunity, come join us each Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at Summit Woods Baptist Church.  Here are a few highlights from chapter two. God’s pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are one and the same pursuit. God’s quest to be glorified and our quest to be satisfied reach their goal in this one experience: our delight in God, which overflows in praise.   …no one is a Christian who does not embrace Jesus gladly as his most valued treasure, and then pursue the fullness of that joy in Christ that honors Him.   The best explanation of Romans 3:23 is Romans 1:23. It says that those who did not glorify or thank God became fools “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” This is the way we “fall short” of the glory of God: We exchange it for something of lesser value. All sin comes from not putting supreme value on the glory of God—this is the very essence of sin.   The wickedness of sin is owing to the implicit disdain for God.   Quoting Jonathan Edwards: Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority.… But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty.… So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment.… The eternity of the punishment of... read more

Shepherding a College-Bound Member

Recently, parents of one of our church’s high-school graduates and college-bound students asked if I would contribute to a book of helpful advice from those who have had an impact on him through his life. I was humbled and honored, as his pastor and as a close friend of the family to contribute. While the name has been changed, and a few of the details, below is the contribution I made as a suggestion of what I would recommend not only to this student, but just about any student as they move away to begin their college career. Brad, While it is no doubt harder for your parents to believe, it really does make Kelly and me take a step back to realize that you have reached this very significant milestone in your life and are headed off to college. One of the greatest joys of our family’s life is to have the close friendship of your family. Recently, while taking my son to a friend’s house abut thirty minutes from us, he wanted to know how far away it was from you. When I asked him if he ever wanted to live far out in the country like his friend, he immediately said, “no way, it’s too far from your family.” Each one of you means much to each one of us. You are embarking on a most significant step. It is now, as you step away from the familiar and safe borders of family, church, and hometown, that you will begin to not only develop new relationships and chart a new course, you will will also begin to see... read more

Cap-ing Off the Weeks of July 1-12, 2015

Sparkling Sparklers Dad and Dave – Let’s Go Royals Beginning soccer Camp Ready for Anything is Updated David and Emi Soccer Camp Pops brought stuff to pop Pops is Popping Stuff Pops brought the fireworks! Putt-Putt with Pops and Leafy Kel and Brie off to camp Head Start to the 4th Tailgating the Royals Game Catch with Pops More images on Flickr  ... read more

Enjoying God and the Best of Human Friendships

From Jonathan Edwards’ sermon I referred to yesterday (God’s Excellencies), here is an end of the day meditation on why the enjoyment of God exceeds all that the best of human friendship can produce. How great must be the happiness of the enjoyment of him. The happiness of society, and the enjoyment of entire friends, is one of the highest sorts of pleasures, next to the pleasures of religion; if that be so sweet, how inexpressibly sweet and delightful must it be to enjoy this excellent being, who is infinitely more excellent, more lovely, than the most perfect, than any of our fellow creatures. There is inexpressibly more pleasure and delight in the enjoyment of God, than in the enjoyment of the most excellent, dear, and entire friends upon earth, and that upon these several accounts: 1. God is every way transcendently more amiable, than the most perfect and lovely of all our fellow creatures. If men take great delight and pleasure in beholding and enjoying the perfections and beauties of their fellow mortals, with what ecstasies, with what sweet rapture, will the sweet glories and beauties of the blessed God be beheld and enjoyed! 2. God loves those that he admits to the enjoyment of him with far greater love than the highest love of fellow creatures. 3. Those that enjoy God shall love him with transcendently greater love than it is possible to love the most lovely creature, so that the love will be mutual; the glorified saint shall be all transformed to love to God, and shall be all transformed to joy at the thought of God’s so dearly loving... read more

Edwards on the Psalms

In preparation of my own heart for preaching a second message on the psalms, I perused one of Jonathan Edwards’ sermons on Psalm 89:6. It is entitled, “God’s Excellencies.” I recommend a read of the whole sermon. It details how God, and his specific attributes of excellence, should motivate us to respond to him in repentance and in worship. Below is merely a few excerpts that might prove helpful as God’s people prepare to gather together to worship God in his excellency on the Lord’s Day. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord, and who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord? Psalms 89:6 This book of Psalms has such an exalted devotion, and such a spirit of evangelical grace every[where] breathed forth in it! Here are such exalted expressions of the gloriousness of God, and even of the excellency of Christ and his kingdom; there is so much of the gospel doctrine, grace, and spirit, breaking out and shining in it, that it seems to be carried clear above and beyond the strain and pitch of the Old Testament, and almost brought up to the New. Almost the whole book of Psalms has either a direct or indirect respect to Christ and the gospel which he was to publish…   The infinite excellency, greatness, and glory of God is the foundation of all religion, for except we believe the perfections of God, we shall never worship him and love him as he ought to be worshipped and loved; except we believe his power and justice and holiness, we shall not... read more

Preparing for Sunday – Psalms, Part 2

Below is the weekly post our church produces to help prepare our congregation for the Sunday morning gathering. Each summer, I take time to preach overview sermons through the Old Testament. We began last week in Psalms. This week we’ll look at a few more significant take-aways from this beautiful book. For those who live in the Kansas City metro area, we invite you to come to Summit Woods Baptist Church at 10:30 am. Carefully Think Last week we considered the book of Psalms as a whole. This week we will focus on how the Psalms affects our faith in God. Look through several headings of several psalms in each of the five sections of the book. List some of the musical terms that you see referred to (i.e.., “to the choirmaster,” “maskil,” “mahalat,” etc.). While it is difficult (if not impossible) to know what these refer to specifically, what do they indicate about the importance of music and how these psalms were to be played? Read through the following psalms: 7, 35, 58, 69, 85, 109, 137. What does the psalmist say about his enemies? Why does this not contradict the gospel of Jesus in the New Testament? Or does it? If you think so, explain. Read through the following psalms: 2, 8, 22, 69, 110. These are often referred to as Messianic psalms; those that speak of the coming of the Messiah. What characteristics do you learn about the Messiah? What indicators are there in each passage that this refers to the future Messiah and not someone else? Prayerfully Meditate  If the book of Psalms is an ancient... read more

Cap-Quotes: Desiring God – Chapter 1

The following are a number of significant quotes from John Piper’s seminal book, Desiring God. All of these are from chapter one; the chapter our church is discussing during our Mid-Week Fellowship tonight. I put a few of my thoughts in brackets and italics. Sorry, no page numbers – I’m using my kindle app. The ultimate ground of Christian Hedonism is the fact that God is uppermost in His own affections: The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever. …we are more accustomed to think about our duty than God’s design. And when we do ask about God’s design, we are too prone to describe it with ourselves at the center of God’s affections. [I would say that we are more accustomed to think about our duty to the exclusion of God’s design; merely thinking on God’s design won’t do the trick either]. God’s saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate….The bedrock foundation of Christian Hedonism is not God’s allegiance to us, but to Himself. [Not to say that God’s saving designs are less important in the grand scheme. But his saving purposes have an end beyond themselves, namely, bringing God glory – and those saving purposes are essential to that end.] “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). The implication of this text is that God has the right and power to do whatever makes Him happy. That is what it means to say that God is sovereign….if none of His purposes can be frustrated, then He must be the happiest of all beings. The hardened disobedience of... read more

Be Unashamed – T4G 2014

I had the joy of attending last week’s Together for the Gospel conference. I could (and no doubt at some point should) list a series of personal blessings from the conference, but in this post, I want to merely encourage you to engage in some of the content for yourself. Below are a few of the moments of the week I found deeply encouraging. The Testimonies This is one of several. You should watch them all. Two Marriages from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo. The Messages While all of the messages were excellent and encouraged and convicted me in unique ways, here are those I found most impactful: Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible, Kevin DeYoung The Gospel by Numbers, Ligon Duncan Mass Defection: The Great Physician Confronts the Pathology of Counterfeit Faith, John MacArthur Persuading, Pleading and Predestination: Human Means in the Miracle of Conversion, John... read more

Cap-Quotes: The Race to Be Run

A few more quotes from my reading through Thomas Schreiner’s book, The Race Set Before Us. …we have affirmed that although eternal life is God’s prize of salvation that we  pursue with eager hope, eternal life is also the gift of grace that already invigorates us with resurrection life so that we run the race with perseverance. Eternal life is the reward that we trust God will give to us who faithfully endure to the end of the race. Yet eternal life is also the very breath of heaven that already fills our hearts by God’s Spirit and enlivens our “feeble arms and weak knees” (Heb 12:12) to “run the race set before us” (Heb 12:1). 88   We must exercise faith in Jesus Christ in order to receive the prize of eternal life….We make this crucial distinction between the objective basis and the subjective means of salvation to make it clear from the outset that what believers do in order to attain the prize of eternal life does not add to or nullify God’s grace in the saving work of Jesus Christ. The reward we receive by faith in Christ is based on grace alone; it is not grounded on our achievement. Only  those who exercise faith in the one true God will receive this reward. 89   If we conceive of Christian faith as only a passive resting on God, we have an inadequate concept….God does not commend a person for a singular act of faith that fails to endure. God does not reward faith that does not go the distance. 95   Faithfulness is the proof of faith….All... read more

What Are You Doing With Your Sundays?

For the past number of weeks, I have been suggesting practical steps you can take to deepen your discipleship in Christ, primarily through engaging in closer relationships with others. I have emphasized you and one or two others getting together to challenge, encourage, pray, and study. In talking about small group or more personal means of discipleship, one might think that discipleship is best accomplished by these means. While such personal means of discipleship are necessary, they must come in tandum with your participation in what we could call corporate discipleship. In fact, I do not think you can define discipleship apart from your participation in the life of a local church. What is involved in what I am referring to as corporate discipleship? While there is much I could say, consider the following elements: Commit yourself to giving Sundays to God’s people. Consider clearing your calendar of any other significant events other than gathering and engaging with God’s people. Why not? Make it your aim to have the gathering of the church be the most important, time-consuming, focus of your day. Plan on having lunch with someone from church. Plan to engage with someone from church on Sunday evening, or attending the evening service. Do not limit your thinking, expectations, or schedule to a small portion of the day. The more significantly you engage the church on each Lord’s Day, the more significantly your relationships with others will grow. Singing with Understanding and Zeal With the Congregation. Our staff seeks, in advance, to inform the church each week about what songs we will sing. We provide links to... read more

Cap-Quotes: The Prize to Be Won

Here are a few more quotes from Tom Schreiner’s book, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. I really recommend this book as a helpful tool in understanding the purpose and use of the warnings of the New Testament and how they related to perseverance and eternal security. The Christian life is like a race, and we run to win a prize. Winning this race is the most important matter in our lives. If we lose this race, everything else we achieve in life is meaningless. 46   Two truths stand out in Paul’s assessment of his life. First, he was confident that he had lived in a way that pleased God….Second, the reason for Paul’s assurance was his perseverance in running the race. He had not quit halfway into the race; he had not abandoned the faith. 47   Both the present and future dimensions of salvation should be viewed as two aspects of an indivisible whole….Salvation is not merely a past reality; it is also our future destiny. 47   We are already saved, yet our salvation has not yet been completed or consummated. We must uphold the tension in the New Testament between the already and not yet when we think of salvation in the New Testament. Believers today are prone to oversimplify the biblical teaching and to think of salvation simply in terms of the present. When this happens, a crucial element of biblical teaching is surrendered… 52   If we wish to represent the New Testament correctly, we cannot say that eternal life is exclusively a present or a future... read more

Helpful Books for Deepening Discipleship

Studying the Scriptures directly is the most helpful pursuit you could pursue in deepening your discipleship in Christ. Reading and talking through a book of the Bible or pursuing a particular subject in Scripture is most helpful. A book like David Helm’s One to One Bible Reading is a very helpful resource to that end. At the same time, using biblically driven books on various subjects to stimulate your thinking and conversation are very helpful tools to use as well. In this post I will list a few books that I think any small group of Christians could begin to use to strengthen their walks with Christ. Obviously this is no exhaustive list. You can probably think of better and more books to add. Please suggest some others. These are some I have personally used and found effective. In choosing books to use, it would be helpful to stimulate your thinking by choosing different books in different sorts of categories. I will arrange some of my suggestions according to a few categories. Christian Living Desiring God, John Piper Future Grace, John Piper Trusting God, Jerry Bridges The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges The Cross-Centered Life, C. J. Mahaney Humility, C. J. Mahaney Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney When People Are Big and God is Small, Edward Welch The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer Call to Spiritual Reformation, D. A. Carson A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent Theology/Church Life Why We Love the Church, Kevin DeYoung The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshall The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur 9Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever Knowing... read more

Cap-Quotes: The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance

A friend and I have recently been reading through Thomas Schreiner, and Ardel Caneday’s book, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. I have to say that this has been an enriching study that has challenged, deepened and, I pray, helpfully shaped my understanding and application of how the Bible uses warnings to encourage faithfulness to Christ. Over the next few weeks I’ll post some helpful quotes from this book. I highly recommend a carefully reading of it. Our central concern is to show how the Bible places side-by-side both God’s promises of complete and final salvation for all his people and God’s admonitions or warnings that call on his people to persevere to the end in order to be saved 21. Four Popular Views on Warnings and Assurance: 1. Loss-of-Salvation View. Though many Christians believe that the Bible addresses warnings and admonitions to believers, some insist that these warnings and admonitions indicate that believers can and sometimes do abandon their faith and consequently lose their salvation. According to the loss-of-salvation view, the Bible’s warnings and admonitions make it clear that heirs of God’s promise can, by forsaking Christ, fail to persevere in faithfulness and long-suffering, and thus lose the inheritance of salvation. I. Howard Marshall and Scot McKnight advocate this view 21-22.   2. Loss-of-Rewards View. This view advocates that the biblical admonitions and warnings threaten believers with a possible loss. However, the loss a Christian may encounter concerns “rewards” only, not salvation or eternal life, which comes to us only by faith in Jesus Christ 24. Zane Hodges and Charles Ryrie advocate this... read more

Tips on Memorizing Scripture with Others

One of the most helpful aspects of my regular meeting with others for the purpose of deepening my and their discipleship is memorizing Scripture together. I’m not necessarily “good” at memorizing. I’m definitely not as sharp with it as I was 20 years ago. It requires an immense amount of concentration and repetition for me, but those two elements (concentration and repetition) prove so fruitful in not only my meditation on the word but my conversation over the application of the word with others. Here are a few thoughts on how you could approach Scripture memory in a regular meeting with others for discipleship: Choose to memorize a large portion of Scripture, rather than smaller, random, unconnected verses. For example, the last portion of Scripture I memorized with a small group of people was the book of Colossians. Before that was the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). I learned the content of these sections very well. I saw how different portions of the book or section fit with previous or later sections. It was easier to memorize the verses as I thought of them in relation to what preceded and followed them. Our conversations about the larger section was more focused and full as we, together, thought through what the whole was saying. There is a flow and a purpose to what is being memorized that not only made it easier to remember, but easier to talk about. I found myself thinking through the content of these sections of Scripture more fully during the week and at random times through my day. Make sure that you not only... read more
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